Out of sight, out of mind? A cognitive geographic approach to dialectology



In dialectology, the central relationship under investigation is often that between dialect distance and geographic distance (Heeringa & Nerbonne, 2013). Other approaches to geographic distance that are more representative of contact situations, such as (historical) travel distance (Gooskens, 2004) or ‘rice paddy distance’ (Stanford, 2012) have successfully been used to explain dialect variation. In this study, theories and methods from cognitive geography are used to explain dialect variation and strength. Cognitive geography, a branch of human geography, is based on the assumption that the mental representation of an environment has more effect on a person’s behaviour than the actual environment (Montello, 2018).

The explanatory power of cognitive geography for dialectological research is assessed through two experiments. For the first experiment, public transport data containing ‘perceived travel times’ from the Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis are used to explain dialect variation and strength in the Netherlands (Bakker & Warffemius, 2017). These data contain travel distances that are enriched with information about waiting times, transfers and other aspects that increase travel reluctance. The goal of this experiment is to find out whether these perceived travel distances are a better explanation of dialect variation and strength than geographic distances.

In the second experiment, cognitive (geographic) distances are used to explain perceptual dialect distances in Groningen and the northern part of Drenthe. Cognitive distances are mental representations of distances that are too large to perceive from one point (Montello, 1991). Participants in the experiment will first provide estimations of distances in kilometres to several locations in the aforementioned area. They will then listen to dialect speakers form these locations and rate the similarity of these dialects to their own dialect, following Gooskens' method (2005). The goal of this experiment is to find out whether cognitive distances can explain differences in perceptual dialect distance.


Bakker, P., & Warffemius, W. (2017). De bereikbaarheidsindicator uitgewerkt voor openbaar vervoer: BBI-ov. Kennisinstituut Mobiliteitsbeleid. https://www.kimnet.nl/publicaties/rapporten/2017/10/13/de-bereikbaarheidsindicator-uitgewerkt-voor-openbaar-vervoer-bbi-ov

Gooskens, C. (2005). How well can Norwegians identify their dialects? Nordic Journal of Linguistics, 28(1), 37–60. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0332586505001319116

Gooskens, C. (2004). Norwegian dialect distances geographically explained. In B.-L. Gunnarson, L. Bergström, G. Eklund, S. Fridell, L. H. Hansen, A. Karstadt, B. Nordberg, E. Sundgren, & M. Thelander (Eds.), Language Variation in Europe. Papers from the Second International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (pp. 195–206).

Heeringa, W., & Nerbonne, J. (2013). Dialectometry. In F. Hinskens & J. Taeldeman (Eds.), Language and space: Dutch (pp. 624–646). De Gruyter Mouton.

Montello, D. R. (1991). The measurement of cognitive distance: Methods and construct validity. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(2), 101–122. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(05)80071-4

Montello, D. R. (2018). Behavioral and cognitive geography: Introduction and overview. In D. R. Montello (Ed.), Handbook of Behavioral and Cognitive Geography (pp. 3–15). Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Stanford, J. N. (2012). One size fits all? Dialectometry in a small clan-based indigenous society. Language Variation and Change, 24(2), 247–278. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394512000087
Originele taal-2English
StatusPublished - 2021
EvenementTABU Dag - University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Duur: 11-jun.-202111-jun.-2021
Congresnummer: 41


ConferenceTABU Dag
Verkorte titelTABU Dag


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